Dubai Tour, stage 3: Cavendish returns to the top

Mark Cavendish won the third stage at the Dubai Tour and now sits second overall at 4 seconds behind new leader Elia Viviani.

FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — British sprint king Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) earned his first win of the year in the third stage of the Dubai Tour on Thursday.

The 32-year-old former world champion edged France’s Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and German powerhouse Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) at the end of the 180-kilometer stage from Dubai to Fujairah. It was Cavendish’s first victory since he won the opening stage of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour.

Cavendish said his teammates “did a great job today. Bernie [Eisel], [Mark] Renshaw, and I finished the job in the last 3km. I still feel the consequences of my Tour de France crash in my body. It will remain for the rest of my life. Quick-Step, Cofidis, and LottoNL-Jumbo all look good. There are so many good teams for sprinting here. I’m nowhere near the form I had in July but I’m happy with my form now.”

Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France last summer after he made contact with Peter Sagan approaching the finish line of stage 4.

Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), the winner of Tuesday’s opening stage in Dubai, initially kept his grip on the leader’s blue jersey but was later handed a 20-second time penalty for drafting off his team car as he chased back following a mechanical.

The penalty knocked Groenewegen out of the top 3, so Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) now leads the race. Cavendish is 4 seconds back in second and Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) is third at 7 seconds.

“The main contender for GC will be the first sprinter tomorrow. I’m disappointed I didn’t take a time bonus today but I sprinted for the win,” said Viviani, who won stage 2. “Tomorrow’s finish is steep but a good position at the bottom would help to defend the jersey. It won’t be about lead-out this time.”

Friday’s fourth stage is a 172km ride from Dubai to Hatta Dam. The pure sprinters will have a tough time holding on up the short but steep final climb.